A tidy ambience and natural materials create a positive sleeping atmosphere. Photo: Team7
There are many things we could do without – but a bed is certainly not one of them. After all, we sleep for around one-third of our lives. Our bodies use this time to strengthen their immune response, heal and regenerate cells. We also process our experiences, wishes and hopes in our sleep – as well as our fears. All this means that we spend more time in the bedroom than in any other room in the home.
What you sleep on should be a personal decision
At the imm cologne 2020, the whole world of sleep will be shown in the interior world Home Sleep. Photo: Koelnmesse
The focal point of the bedroom is, of course, the bed, and specifically the mattress, since the choice of the right mattress is crucial when it comes to restful sleep. Whether we should choose a spring core, latex, cold foam, viscose or a hybrid design depends on various factors. Our habits and dispositions play a major role in this choice: Do we prefer to sleep on our side, our back or our stomach? For example, spring core mattresses are well suited to stomach and back sleepers, while side sleepers often feel more comfortable on cold foam or viscose mattresses, as these usually have a higher point elasticity. Another point to consider is how we perceive temperature: spring cores provide a high degree of air circulation and are therefore particularly suitable for people who are prone to sweating. Those who often suffer from the cold should instead opt for cold foam or viscose mattresses. Latex mattresses offer a fairly good balance in this respect, but they offer particular benefits for allergy sufferers, because they are less susceptible to mite infestation than their competitors. Overweight people should select spring core mattresses or viscose mattresses, with the degree of firmness also being important, of course. However, the ultimate deciding factor is personal comfort.
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Different countries, different conventions
Whether Japan, China or the USA - in many cultures it is completely normal to take a nap in public spaces. Photo: Christels
Our social backgrounds also have an influence on our choice of bed. While double beds in Germany are usually furnished with two sets of covers, it is common for the British, French or Americans to share a cover in a double bed. Beds in these countries are also predominantly made with a combination of two thin covers, while in Germany, thicker quilts filled with feathers, down or synthetic fibres are usually used. The double beds themselves also differ in size. While a width of 180 or 200 cm is considered sufficient for sleepers in Germany, the French make do with a standard size of 150 cm. In addition, they generally use only one mattress, dispensing with that annoying gap where two mattresses are joined. Box-spring beds are the favoured option in the United States. But although the dual-mattress bed is becoming more and more popular in Europe – especially in France – bed dimensions still differ, particularly in the USA. While single beds measure 99 x 190.5 cm or 99 x 203 cm (known as a twin XL), double beds usually measure 152 x 203 cm (queen) or 193 x 203 cm (king).
In Japan there is traditionally no separate bedroom. Here, a futon, a thick mat consisting of several layers of cotton and hung to air in a cupboard during the day, serves as the sleeping surface. Indians and Pakistanis traditionally sleep on a charpai, a wooden frame with four legs covered with a reclining surface made of woven straps of fabric or rope. To make it a little more comfortable, colourful cloths are often laid over the reclining surface. Its low weight means that the charpai can be easily transported and moved. In China, people usually sleep communally – on a kang. This “bed-stove” is positioned over a flue system channelling heat from the fireplace and has a constant temperature of about 40°C. Usually, the oldest man in the house occupies the position closest to the fireplace together with his wife. All other members of the family then join them in generational order.
But world cultures differ in more than just their bed furniture. While monophasic sleep is the predominant sleep culture in large parts of Europe, and taking a midday nap during the working day is still frowned upon, this brief rest already has a name in the USA: the power nap. In Japan, they go one step further. Here, inemuri (in English: to be present while sleeping – i.e. napping in public) is a fully recognised activity, whether on the bus on the way to work, during your lunch break, at a conference or even in classes at school. However, students have to place a carefully folded hand towel on their desks before they lay down their heads. In China, too, people often divide their sleep into several periods (polyphasic sleep) – and even sleep in public. It’s actually a constitutional right for Chinese workers to take a nap after lunch – there’s a term for it: xiu-xi.
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The world of sleep is getting smart
Die Welt wird immer smarter - auch im Schlafzimmer. Photo: Auping
No matter whether you have your eight hours in a row or in intervals: sleep is getting smart. For example, manufacturer Auping aims to help snorers and their partners with its Smart Base mattress. As soon as someone begins to snore, the back section of the mattress rises a little or the snoring person is given a gentle nudge, prompting him or her to change position. An app measures the decibel level in the room and activates the pre-selected anti-snoring function at a certain volume, which can be individually defined. You can also be woken up by your mattress in the same way. Another smart solution from Auping (in collaboration with Delft University of Technology) is the Somnox sleep robot. Somnox is designed to help overcome sleep problems by means of breath regulation or soothing sounds. Of course, the robot can also be controlled via an app.
As a general rule, we are now using apps more and more frequently to manage our lives. We count steps and calories via apps, take our heart rate and pulse and have healthy recipes suggested to us. A sleep app is the obvious next step. Developed by a team from the University of Michigan, it allows you to monitor how long you spend in bed each day. By adding demographic data such as gender, age or current time zone, you can track your sleep rhythm. The app was originally developed to help users overcome jet lag more effectively. To help us fall asleep, we use apps that emit so-called white noise or calming sounds such as rain or breaking waves. The purpose of these sounds is not only to help us switch off more easily, they also drown out disruptive sounds that can prevent us from falling asleep.
When it comes to our waking habits, we’ve also now moved on from traditional alarm clocks. While music in general is already available through radio alarm clocks, these days we can set our smartphones to use our favourite music to wake us up. If you prefer to be roused gently from your sleep by visual stimuli, you can choose to be woken up by a wake-up light. These devices simulate the sun rising by brightening the light, a change that can be perceived even through closed eyes.